- Play Draymond Green at center? Find a new way to attack DeMarcus Cousins? The Crossover staff considers the biggest adjustments the Warriors and Raptors can make to prepare for Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The Warriors and Raptors are tied at 1–1 in the NBA Finals and each team wants to gain as much of a competitive edge as possible. That means adjustments are on the way for both teams. Since we have no way of knowing how each team will react, The Crossover took the liberty of making suggestions in advance of Game 3.
To Be Determined
Realistically, all adjustments will depend on who plays for the Warriors and who doesn't—and, knowing Kerr, he may wait until tipoff to disclose that information. If Klay and KD are both out (especially as other Warriors like Looney remain banged up), Toronto may run back its box-and-one, or a variation on it, creating a domino effect: Green and Iguodala et al left open, more minutes for Cook and McKinnie, and so on. If that's the case, the Warriors will have to find a way to be more potent than the final five minutes of Game 5, when Steph's usage plummeted, taking with it the Warriors offense. Perhaps that is running more of it through Cousins, whose playmaking was huge in Game 5.
If Klay plays, Toronto has to find a way to put more pressure on Curry on the defensive end—which they should do anyway, in hopes of beating him up and/or wearing him out—and decide if Danny Green can stay on the floor for major minutes if he's not an offensive threat. Perhaps it's finding even more time for Norman Powell, who was a game-best +13 in 21 minutes Sunday. Maybe it's going one player deeper into the bench, even for a few minutes, to see who responds.
In the end, it might not be the team that makes the best adjustment that prevails, but the one that prepares the most of them. — Chris Ballard
Find the Means to Play Green at the Five
It’s time. Steve Kerr has been reluctant to commit to small ball in the absence of Kevin Durant, whose size allows all the advantages of playing small (speed, spacing, playmaking) and fewer of its costs. There is room, however, for the Warriors to field the style without him—and one less alternative now that Kevon Looney is out indefinitely with a fractured collarbone. DeMarcus Cousins will start and play a crucial role. Andrew Bogut will fill spot minutes, as is necessary. Beyond that, playing Green at center (and accepting what penalties come with it) now seems a requirement. Green has played just three minutes at center thus far in these Finals, according to NBA.com, all with reserve Jonas Jerebko sharing the frontcourt. Golden State ought to go even smaller, with Green, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and either Shaun Livingston or Quinn Cook as matchups allow. Tending to the glass will be a challenge. Some Raptors will find the cleaner looks that come with a height advantage. Still it's worthy of an honest try, if only because without Looney, the Warriors now have more available minutes than their backup centers can reasonably bear. — Rob Mahoney
The Raptors (and Warriors) Need a Surprise Shooter
For the Raptors, composure. Coughing up home-court advantage to a three-time champion can be daunting. But Toronto heads to Oakland to face a Warriors team down Kevin Durant, down Kevon Looney and with a hobbled Klay Thompson, whose status for Game 3 is up in the air. The Raptors need to believe that if they shoot better, they can win this game—and this series.
For Golden State, someone has to step up. The Raptors went to a rarely used box-and-one defense when Thompson went out, daring anyone not named Stephen Curry to beat them. Golden State got a huge lift from DeMarcus Cousins in Game 2 and Quinn Cook gave the Warriors 21 good minutes off the bench. If Thompson is out—or even limited—the Raptors will load up on Curry. Someone from Golden State will need to help him out. — Chris Mannix
Find a New Way to Attack Boogie
Both the Raptors and Warriors have kept a center on the floor for most of this series. Toronto’s “smallest” look has featured Serge Ibaka at the five, while Golden State played a couple small minutes with Jonas Jerebko in Game 2 before abandoning that unit completely. Heading into the series, I thought Toronto would need to play more small minutes to defend Steph Curry pick-and-rolls. Injury issues have forced Steve Kerr to keep his lineups traditional, however, and now I’m wondering if the Raps should go smaller to target the Dubs’ bigs.
Boogie Cousins didn’t look 100% in Game 2, but he played remarkably well under the circumstances, especially on the defensive end. Marc Gasol came back down to earth and Toronto’s offense couldn’t take advantage of the minutes with Cousins on the floor, despite targeting him relentlessly. Perhaps a more athletic look—like with Pascal Siakam at center—would expose Cousins in a way the Raptors could not in Game 2. The Warriors defense was outstanding in the second half of that contest, and Toronto may need to find a way to loosen it up if that continues in Game 3. If Cousins—who will likely play substantial minutes with Kevon Looney out for the series—can’t be taken advantage of, replacing Gasol with a more dynamic threat could be one way to force Golden State to start scrambling. — Rohan Nadkarni
Steph Needs to Play on the Ball More
The pull of Stephen Curry is legendary, his involvement in any screen or off-ball action springing players open and providing a surefire source of offense for the Warriors. This concept works best when those around him are legit threats themselves. As we are all well aware, the Warriors are running low on offensive firepower on the margins at the moment, a fact that became apparent in the NBA Finals against a stout Raptors defense. When forced to count on the shooting of Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala or finishing of Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie, Golden State didn’t quite look as smooth as we’ve grown accustomed to. Those issues are only magnified when Draymond Green struggles to get those players the ball, as he has in the last two games, racking up 11 turnovers due to big minutes and high usage.
There’s one straightforward solve for this issue, and I found myself screaming it at the TV over and over again as I watched Green throw an arrant pass or Livingston miss a free-throw extended jumper. Stephen Curry needs to play on the ball more. I’m aware that Fred VanVleet is in Curry’s jersey and the Raptors are trapping the Warriors star when he crosses halfcourt. But having Steph bring the ball up and become the center of attention isn’t the move. He needs screens from his teammates and schemes from Steve Kerr. It won’t be easy, but it has to happen. The Warriors did away with the Rockets when Curry was cast as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll. Moving Green from passer—where he’s had trouble—to roller would pay dividends, but getting Steph in position to dribble, pass and shoot instead of running idly along the wing and baseline is what will keep the Warriors on track for their third straight title. — DeAntae Prince